The Coming Prince
CHAPTER XIV: THE PATMOS VISIONS
NARROWNESS of interpretation is the bane of apocalyptic
study. "The words of this prophecy," "Things which must shortly come to
pass'" such is the Divine description of the Book of the Revelation and
of its contents. No one, therefore, is justified in denying to any portion
of it a future application. The Book in its entirety is prophetic. Even
the seven epistles, though they were undoubtedly addressed to Churches
then existing, and though their intermediate reference to the history
of Christendom is also clear, may well have a special voice in days to
come for those who are to enter the fierce trials that shall precede the
In the fourth chapter the throne is set in heaven. Judgment
now waits on grace; but when the day of grace is past, judgment must intervene
ere the promises and covenants, with all their rich store of blessings,
can be fulfilled. But who can unfold that scroll that lies on the open hand
of Him who sits upon the throne? (Revelation 5:2) No creature in the universe
may dare to look on it, and God Himself will not break a single seal of
it, for the Father has ceded the prerogative of judgment. The ministry of
grace may be shared by all whom grace has blessed, but the Son of man is
the only Being in the universe who can take the initiative in judgment;
(John 5:22-27) and amid the anthems of the heavenly beings round the throne,
and the swelling chorus of myriads of myriads of angels, echoed back by
the whole creation of God, the Crucified of Calvary, "a Lamb, as it had
been slain," takes up the book and prepares to break the seals. (Revelation
1. The Bible is not intended for the present dispensation
only, but for the people of God in every age; and it is incredible that
they who are to be so severely tried shall fail to find in it words
specially fitted and intended to counsel and comfort them in view of
what they are to endure. "This prophecy" is the Divine description of
the Apocalypse as a whole (Revelation 1:3). Compare the "must shortly
come to pass" of Revelation 1:1 with the "must shortly be done" of 22:6.
The salutation (1:4, 5) seems to fix the dispensational place
of the Book as future. It is not the Father, but Jehovah; not the Lord
Jesus Christ, but "Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the Prince of
the kings of the earth"; and the Book speaks from a time when the Holy
Spirit, as a person, will again be in heaven, to join in the
salutation, which He never does in the Epistles of the New Testament.
Revelation 1:19 is frequently quoted to prove that the Book is divided,
and that the latter part only is prophetic. In refutation of this, I
appeal to the most candid of apocalyptic commentators, Dean Alford,
who thus translates the verse: "Write therefore the things which thou
sawest, and what things they signify, and the things which are about
to happen after these." He explains "the things which thou sawest" to
be "the vision which was but now vouchsafed thee," and the closing words
as "the things which shall succeed these, i. e., a future vision"
(Greek Test., in loco).
In ch. 4:1, Alford inclines to give to the second meta
tauta the general meaning of "hereafter."
But the presumption is; that the words are used at the end of the verse
in the same sense as at the beginning, i. e., "after these things."
The words imply that the fulfillment of the subsequent visions should
be future, relatively to the fulfillment of the preceding vision, and
not relatively merely to the time when the vision was given, which was
a matter of course.
It is at the fifth seal that the vision crosses the lines
of the chronology of prophecy. Of the earlier seals, therefore,
it is unnecessary to speak in detail. They are evidently descriptive of
the events to which the Lord referred in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew,
as preceding the great final persecution; – wars and unceasing threats
of war, kingdoms in arms rushing on one another to destruction; and then
famine, to be followed again by pestilence, hunger and the sword still claiming
their victims, and others being seized by strange and nameless deaths in
the ever-gathering horrors of these cumulative woes. (Revelation 6:2-8)
2. Revelation 3. It is not, as in English Version,
"no man," but oudeis. The Revised
Version properly reads "no one."
According to the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, the tribulation
is to be followed immediately by the signs and portents which the old prophets
have declared will herald "the great and terrible day of the Lord." So in
the Apocalypse the martyrs of the tribulation are seen in the fifth seal,
(Revelation 9) and in the sixth, the advent of the great day of wrath is
proclaimed, the precise events being named which the Lord had spoken of
on the Mount of Olives, and Joel and Isaiah had foretold long centuries
3. Because the fifth seal relates to the great persecution
of the future, which, as already noticed, is within the seventieth week.
The first four seals relate to the events preceding in time the fulfillment
of the fifteenth verse of the twenty-fourth of Matthew. Compare the
sixth and seventh verses of that chapter with Revelation 6:1-8.
Like the dull, oppressive calm which precedes the fiercest
storms, there is silence in heaven when the last seal is broken, (Revelation
8:1) for the day of vengeance has dawned. The events of the earlier seals
were Divine judgments, doubtless, but of a providential character, and such
as men can account for by secondary causes. But God has at length declared
Himself, and as it has been in the past, so now, the occasion is an outrage
committed on His people. The cry of martyrs is come up in remembrance before
God, (Revelation 3) and it is the signal for the trumpet blasts which herald
the outpouring of the long-pent-up wrath. (Revelation 6)
4. "The day of the Lord cometh…The sun shall
be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and
the terrible day of the Lord come" (Joel 2:1-31). "The day of the Lord
cometh…The sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon
shall not cause her light to shine" (Isaiah 13:9, 10). "Immediately
after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the
moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven"
(Matthew 24:29). "There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon,
and in the stars" (Luke 21:25). "The sun became black as sackcloth of
hair, and the moon became as blood" (compare Joel 2:31), "and the stars
of heaven fell unto the earth" (Revelation 6:12, 13).
I entirely agree with the following note of Dean Alford's (Greek
Test., Matthew 24:29): "Such prophecies are to be understood literally,
and indeed, without such understanding would lose their truth and significance.
The physical signs shall happen as accompaniments and intensification's
of the awful state of things which the description typifies." Not of
course that the moon will really become blood, any more than that the
stars will fall. The words describe phenomena which men will
witness, and which will strike terror into their hearts.
To write a commentary on the Apocalypse within the limits of a chapter would
be impossible, and the attempt would involve a departure from the special
purpose and subject of these pages. But it is essential to notice and keep
in view the character and method of the Apocalyptic visions. The seer, be
it remembered, was not privileged to read a single line of what was written
"within and on the back side" of the sealed scroll of the fifth chapter;
but as each seal was broken, some prominent characteristic of a portion
of its contents was communicated to him in a vision. The main series of
the visions, therefore, represent events in their chronological sequence.
But their course is occasionally interrupted by parenthetical or episodical
visions; sometimes, as between the sixth and seventh seals, reaching on
to the time of the end, and more frequently, as between the sixth and seventh
trumpets, representing details chronologically within the earlier visions.
The first and most important step, therefore, towards a right understanding
of the Apocalypse is to distinguish between the serial and the episodical
visions of the Book, and the following analysis is offered to promote and
assist inquiry upon the subject. –
5. The passages containing the parenthetical visions
are marked in square brackets.
- Chap. 6. – The visions of the
first six seals; representing events in their chronological order.
[Chap. 7. – Parenthetical; the first vision relating either to
the faithful remnant of the fifth seal, or to an election in view of
the judgments of the seventh seal; the second, reaching on to the final
Chaps. 8, 9. – The opening of the seventh seal. The visions of
the first six trumpets; consecutive judgments, in their chronological
[Chaps. 10. -11. 13. – Parenthetical, containing the hidden
mystery of the seven thunders (10:3, 4) and the testimony of the witnesses
(the latter being probably within the era of the fifth seal.)]
Chap. 11:15-19. – The seventh trumpet; the third and last woe
(comp. 8:13; 9:12; 11:14), preceding the establishment of the kingdom
(comp. 10:7; 11:15).
[Chaps. 12. -18. – Parenthetical]
Chap. 13. – The rise and career of the two great blasphemers and
persecutors of the last days.
Chap. 14. – The remnant of chap. 7. seen in blessedness. The everlasting
Gospel (vers. 6, 7). The fall of Babylon (ver. 8). The doom of the worshippers
of the Beast (vers. 9-11). The revelation of Christ, and final judgments,
Chap. 15. – A vision of events chronologically within chapter
8., the opening the seventh seal. (This appears from the fact that the
faithful of the fifth seal are here represented as praising God in view
of the judgments impending, – see vers. 2-4; which judgments are
within the seventh seal.)
Chap. 16. – The seven vials; a second series
of visions of the events of the seven trumpets. This appears –
First, because the seventh trumpet and the seventh vial
both relate to the final catastrophe. Under the seventh trumpet, the mystery
of God is finished (10:7), and the temple of God is opened, and there
are lightnings, voices, thunders, and an earthquake (11:19). Under the
seventh vial, "It is done!" is heard from the temple, and there are voices,
thunders, lightnings, and an earthquake (16:17, 18).
Second, because the sphere of the judgments is the same in the correlative
visions of both series:
- 1, The earth.
2, The sea.
3, The rivers.
4, The sun.
5, The pit, the seat of the beast.
7, Heaven, the air.
- [Chaps. 17., 18. – Detailed visions
of the development and doom of Babylon, "the harlot," whose fall has
been within the seventh trumpet and seventh vial; the last series of
judgments of the seventh seal (11:18; 16:19).]
Chap. 19: The doom of the harlot being accomplished (ver. 2), the glory
of the bride follows (ver. 7); the glorious revelation of Christ, and
the destruction consequent thereon of the beast and false prophet (ver.
Chap. 20. – Satan is bound. The millennial reign of the saints
(vers. 1-4). After the millennial reign, Satan is loosed, and once more
deceives the nations. Satan is cast into the lake of fire. The judgment
of the Great White Throne.
Chaps. 21., 22:1-5. – The new heaven and new earth
Chap. 22:6-21. – Conclusion.
6. I purposely pass over chap. 12, because of
the exceptional difficulties which attend the interpretation of it. "Anything
within reasonable regard for the analogies and symbolism of the text seems
better that the now too commonly received historical interpretation, with
its wild fancies and arbitrary assignments of words and figures" (Alford,
Greek Test., Revelation 12:15, 16). The only reasonable interpretation
I have seen is that which regards the "man-child, who was to rule all
nations with a rod of iron," and who "was caught up to God and His throne,"
as being the Lord Jesus Christ, and the woman as representing that people
of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came" (Romans 9:5). But the objections
to this are considerable. First, past historical facts are thus introduced
into a vision relating to the future. I am not aware of any other instance
of this in Scripture. Secondly, the main features of the vision after
ver. 5 are not accounted for by the facts.
As the last trumpet and the last vial embrace the final judgments
of the day of vengeance, which precede the advent of the glorious kingdom,
they necessarily include the doom of the two great antichristian powers
of the last days, – the imperial represented by the ten-horned beast,
and the ecclesiastical typified by the scarlet woman. The visions of the
thirteenth and seventeenth chapters, therefore, are interposed, descriptive
of the rise and development of these powers. These accordingly give us details
which relate to events within the earlier seals, for the martyrs of the
fifth seal are the victims of the great persecutor of the thirteenth chapter.
The following remarks are offered merely to assist inquiry and not at
all as expressing a formed opinion on the matter. The 1, 260 days during
which the woman is persecuted is precisely the period of "the great tribulation."
Ver. 7 declares that during the woman's flight, Michael the Archangel
fought on her behalf. Daniel 12:1, referring to the time of Antichrist's
power, states that "at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince
which standeth for the children of the people; and there shall be a time
of trouble," etc., describing "the great tribulation" which is
to continue 1, 260 days.
Again, the Old Scriptures clearly point to the career of a future David,
a deliverer of the Jews, who will become their earthly leader at that
time, and reign over them in Jerusalem afterwards. See, e. g., Ezekiel
22-25, about David the Prince, who is certainly not Christ, seeing he
is to have a palace in Jerusalem and a definite inheritance in the land,
and who, moreover, is to offer burnt-offerings, etc. (Ezekiel 45:17).
I suppose this is the great military conqueror of Isaiah 43:1-3. May not
the Revelation 12 refer to this personage, who is to be Christ's vicegerent
on earth, and who will, in fact, rule over all nations.
If the foregoing scheme be correct in the main, the eras included in the
Revelation may be divided thus:
- 1. The seven
Churches; the transitional period following the close of the Christian
2. The seven seals; the period during which all
that prophecy has foretold shall precede the kingdom will be fulfilled.
3. The kingdom; to be followed, after a final interval of apostasy,
4. The eternal state; the new heaven and new earth.
7. That is, assuming that this portion of the
Book has a prophetical aspect.
It is manifestly within the period of the seals that the
prophecies of Daniel have their fulfillment, and the next inquiry should
be directed to ascertain the points of contact between the visions of St.
John and the earlier prophecies.
As already noticed, it is only in so far as prophecy falls within the seventy
weeks that it comes within the range of human chronology. And further, the
seventieth week will be a definite period, of which the epoch of the middle
and the end are definitely marked. The epoch of the first week, that is,
of the prophetic period as a whole, was not the return of the Jews from
Babylon, nor yet the rebuilding of their temple, but the signing of the
Persian decree which restored their national position. So also the beginning
of the last week will date, not from their restoration to Judea, nor yet
from the future rebuilding of their shrine, but from the signing of the
treaty by "the coming Prince," which probably will once more recognize them
as a nation.
But it is obvious that this personage must have attained
to power before the date of that event; and it is expressly stated (Daniel
7:24) that his rise is to be after that of the ten kingdoms which
are hereafter to divide the Roman earth. It follows, therefore, that the
development of these kingdoms, and the rise of the great Kaiser who is to
wield the imperial scepter in the last days, must be prior to the beginning
of the seventieth week.
8. I do not assert that he will have reached the zenith
of his power before that date. On the contrary, it seems extremely probable
that the treaty with the Jews will be one of the steps by which he will
raise himself to the place he is destined to hold, and that as soon
as he has attained his end, he will throw off the mask and declare himself
a persecutor. So Irenaeus teaches, and he possibly gives what was the
tradition of the apostolic age.
And within certain limits, we can also fix the order of the
subsequent events. The violation of the treaty by the defilement of the
Holy Place is to occur "in the midst of the week." (Daniel 9:27) That event,
again, is to be the epoch of the great persecution by Antichrist, (Matthew
24:15- 21) which is to last precisely three and a half years; for his power
to persecute the Jews is to be limited to that definite period. (Daniel
7:25; Revelation 13:5) "Immediately after the tribulation
of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her
light." (Matthew 24:29) Such is the statement of the twenty-fourth
of Matthew; and the sixth of Revelation exactly coincides with it, for the
vision of the fifth seal embraced the period of "the tribulation"; and when
the sixth seal was opened, "the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and
the moon became as blood," and the cry went forth, "The great day of His
wrath is come." (Revelation 6:12, 17) In keeping with this, again, is the
prophecy of Joel. "The sun shall be turned into darkness,
and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord
come." (Joel 2:31) The events of this day of vengeance are the burden
of the vision of the seventh seal, including the judgment of Babylon, the
scarlet woman – or the religious apostasy – by the agency of
the imperial power (Revelation 17:16, 17) the beast, whose fearful end is
to bring the awful drama to a close. (Revelation 19:20) We have definite
grounds, therefore, for assigning the following order to the events of the
9. He is neither king of the north nor of the south,
for both these kings shall invade his territory (ver. 40), i. e.,
the powers which shall then respectively possess Syria and Egypt.
- 1. The development of the ten kingdoms.
2. The appearance within the territorial limits of these kingdoms of
an eleventh "king," who will subdue three of the ten, and will ultimately
be accepted as Suzerain by all.
3. The making of a treaty by this king with, or in favor of, the Jews.
The epoch of the seventieth week.
4. The violation of the treaty by this king after three and a half years.
5. "The great tribulation" of Scripture, the awful persecution of the
last days, which shall continue three and a half years.
6. The deliverance of the Jews from their great enemy, to be followed
by their final establishment in blessing. The close of the seventieth
7. "The great and terrible day of the Lord," the
period of the seventh seal, beginning with a revelation of Christ to
His people in Jerusalem, accompanied by appalling manifestations of
Divine power and ending with His last glorious advent.
That the seventieth week will be the last seven years
of the dispensation, and the term of the reign of Antichrist, is a belief
as old as the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. But a careful examination
of the statements of Scripture will lead to some modification of this
view. The fulfillment to Judah of the blessings specified in Daniel 9:24
is all that Scripture expressly states will mark the close of the seventieth
week. Antichrist will then be driven out of Judea; but there is no reason
whatever to suppose he will otherwise lose his power. As already shown,
the seventieth week ends with the period of the fifth seal, whereas the
fall of Babylon is within the era of the seventh seal. No one may assert
that that era will be of long duration, and it will probably be brief;
but the only certain indication of its length is that it will be within
a single lifetime, for at its close the Antichrist is to be seized alive,
and hurled to his awful doom (Revelation 19:20).
The analogy of the past might lead us to expect that the events foretold
to occur at the end of the seventieth week would follow immediately at
its close. But the Book of Daniel expressly teaches that there will be
an interval. Whatever view be taken of the earlier portion of the eleventh
of Daniel, it is clear that "the king" of the thirty-sixth and following
verses is the great enemy of the last days. His wars and conquests are
predicted, and the twelfth chapter opens with the mention of the predicted
time of trouble, "the great tribulation" of Matthew and Revelation. The
seventh verse specifies the duration of the "time of trouble" as "a time,
times, and a half," which, as already shown, is the half week, or 1, 260
days. But the eleventh verse expressly declares that from the date of
the event which is to divide the week, and which, according to Matthew
24., is to be the signal of persecution, there shall be 1, 290 days; and
the twelfth verse postpones the blessing to 1, 335 days, or seventy-five
days beyond the close of the prophetic weeks.
If therefore "the day of the Lord" follows immediately upon
the close of the seventieth week, it seems that Judah's complete deliverance
is not to take place until after that final period has begun. And this is
expressly confirmed by the fourteenth chapter of Zechariah. It is a prophecy
than which none is more definite, and the difficulties which beset the interpretation
of it are in no degree overcome by refusing to read it literally. It seems
to teach that at that time Jerusalem is to be taken by the allied armies
of the nations, and that at the moment when a host of prisoners are being
led away, God will intervene in some miraculous way, as when He destroyed
the army of Pharaoh at the Exodus
10. The day of battle" (Zechariah 14:3). The prophet
adds: "And His feet shall stand on that day upon the Mount of Olives."
I cannot conceive how any one can suppose this to be the great: and
final advent in glory as described in Matthew 24:30 and other Scriptures.
"The prophecy (Zechariah 14) seems literal. If Antichrist be the leader
of the nations, it seems inconsistent with the statement that he will
at this time be sitting in the temple as God at Jerusalem; thus Antichrist
outside would be made to besiege Antichrist within the city. But difficulties
do not set aside revelations; the event will clear up seeming difficulties"
(Fausset's Commentary, in loco). It is idle to speculate on such
a matter, but I presume the city will have revolted against the great
enemy during his absence at the head of the armies of the empire, and
that thereupon he will turn back to reconquer it. History repeats itself.
Moreover, there is no reason to believe that he will reside in Jerusalem,
though presumably he will have a palace there, and as part of a blasphemous
pageant, will sit enthroned in the temple. That Jerusalem should be
captured by a hostile army at such a time will seem less strange if
it be remembered first that the true people of God therein shall have
warning to leave the city at the beginning of these troubles (Matthew
24:15, 16.), and secondly, that the deliverance of the capital is to
be tile last act in the deliverance of Judah (See Zechariah 12:7).
Comparison with the prophecy of the twenty-fourth chapter
of St. Matthew is the surest and strictest test which can be applied to
these conclusions. After fixing the epoch and describing the character of
the great persecution of the last days, the Lord thus enumerates the events
which are to follow at its close:– First the great natural phenomena
predicted; then the appearance of the sign of the Son of man in heaven;
then the mourning of the tribes of the land; and finally the glorious
11. Immediately after the tribulation of those days
shall "the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and
the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall
be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven;
and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see
the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great
glory" (Matthew 24:29, 30).
That there will be no interval between the persecution
and the "great signs from heaven" (Luke 21:11) which are to follow it, is
expressly stated; they are to occur "immediately after the tribulation."
That an interval shall separate the other events of the series is equally
clear. From the defilement of the Holy Place, to the day when the tribulation
shall end, and the "fearful sights" and "great signs" from heaven shall
strike terror into men's hearts, shall be a definite period of 1,260 days;
and yet when He goes on to speak of the Advent, the Lord declares that that
day is known to the Father only: it should be His people's part to watch
and wait. He had already warned them against being deceived by expecting
His Advent before the fulfillment of all that must come to pass (Matthew
24:4-28). Now He warns them against apostasy after the accomplishment of
all things, because of the delay which even then shall still mark His coming.
12. kopsontai pasai ai phulai tas gas. Comp. Zechariah
12:12 (LXX), kopsetai ha ga kata phulas phulas.
13. Therefore if the Advent synchronized with these
events, any one then living would be able to fix the date of it, once
the epoch of the tribulation were known; whereas the chapter clearly
shows that an interval will follow after all has been fulfilled, long
enough to weed out mere professors, who, tired of waiting, will apostatize
(Matthew 24:48), and to lull, even true disciples to a sleep from which
their Lord's return will rouse them (Ibid. 25:5).
14. Matthew 24:42-51, and 25:10-13: "THEN shall the kingdom of heaven
be likened unto ten virgins." tote, "at
the period spoken of at the end of the last chapter, viz., the coming
of the Lord to His personal reign" (Alford, Gr. Test., in loco.)]
Though applicable to every age in which there is a waiting people
on earth, the parable will have its full and special application in
the last days to those who shall be looking back on the complete page
of prophecy fulfilled. The entire passage from chap. 24:31, to chap.
25:30, is parenthetical, relating especially to that time.
The words of Christ are unequivocally true, and He never
enjoins upon His people to live in expectation of His coming, save at
a time when nothing intervenes to bar the fulfillment of the hope. Fatalism
is as popular among Christians as with the worshippers of Mahomet; and
it is forgotten that though the dispensation has run its course these
eighteen centuries, it might have been brought to a close at any moment.
Hence the Christian is taught to live, "looking for that blessed hope."
(Titus 2:12, 13) It will be otherwise in days to come, when the present
dispensation shall have closed with the first stage of the Advent. Then
the word will be, not "Watch, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth
come," (Matthew 24:42) – that belongs to the time when all shall
have been fulfilled, – but "Take heed that no man deceive you, all
these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet." (Matthew 4:6)